President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. has met with Justice Secretary Jesus Crispin Remulla and Solicitor General Menardo Guevarra to discuss the government’s stand regarding the International Criminal Court’s (ICC) move to resume its investigation of the Duterte administration’s drug war.
“We discussed the government’s position on the ICC investigation,” Guevarra said in a text message to reporters, referring to their meeting on Wednesday.
“But I’d rather leave it to the President to make any disclosure at this time,” Guevarra added.
Remulla confirmed he was also present in the meeting but declined to disclose details of what was discussed, saying Malacanang would be the one who would announce its details.
“We had a meeting with former Secretary Menardo Guevarra who is now the Solicitor General. We met with the Executive Secretary (Vic Rodriguez), the Chief Legal Counsel (Juan Ponce Enrile), myself… and of course [the] President to speak about our concerns about the ICC issue, which of course you’ll find out in the next few days …” Remulla said.
“Wait for Malacañang for the announcement on our drift in the ICC,” he added.
Guevarra earlier said he would seek the opinion of Marcos as well as of the Department of Foreign Affairs, Department of Justice, and international law experts regarding the invitation of the Hague-based court for the Philippines to provide observations on its request to reopen the probe.
Guevarra has said his office will examine the issue of ICC’s jurisdiction to investigate the Philippines.
In March 2019, the Philippines officially withdrew from the ICC after the body launched a preliminary examination of then-President Rodrigo Duterte’s controversial campaign against illegal drugs, which has been linked to thousands of alleged extrajudicial killings in the country.
The DFA has said it is consulting with government lawyers on the issue of allowing ICC investigators to probe the thousands of alleged drug killings under former President Rodrigo Duterte.
“In view of the government transition, the DFA is in the process of coordinating with lead agencies, such as the DOJ and OSG on this matter,” new DFA spokesperson Teresita Daza said, referring to the offices which advise the President and the administration on legal issues.
Nonetheless, Daza stressed that “the Philippine government affirms its commitment to fight impunity, atrocities, and crimes notwithstanding the country’s withdrawal from the Rome Statute.”
“The Philippines also has a national legislation punishing atrocities.
The Philippines underscores that it has a primary jurisdiction to investigate and prosecute the crime against humanity allegedly being committed in the context of anti-illegal drugs campaign,” she added.
Daza also pointed out that the ICC “complements but does not replace national courts.”
“It only operates when national jurisdictions are unable or unwilling to prosecute,” she emphasized.
The ICC has been investigating the allegations of extrajudicial killings in the anti-illegal drugs campaign of Duterte.
In November, the ICC suspended its probe of the killings as a possible crime against humanity after Duterte’s administration said it has launched its own probe of the police behind the killings. However, the ICC chief prosecutor recently asked the court to immediately resume the investigation.
A court of last resort, the ICC, created in 1998, investigates atrocities against humanity in countries unable or unwilling to prosecute such crimes.
After The Hague-based court launched a preliminary investigation on Duterte’s drug war, the former president withdrew its ratification of the Rome Statute, which created the ICC.
Philippine officials have been saying the government opposes extrajudicial killings and would prosecute law enforcers committing such crimes.
In a photo first shared by former presidential spokesperson Harry Roque on Facebook Wednesday, Marcos was surrounded by chief presidential legal counsel Juan Ponce Enrile, Executive Secretary Vic Rodriguez, Solicitor General Menardo Guevarra, Justice Secretary Jesus Crispin “Boying” Remulla, Foreign Secretary Enrique Manalo, and the chief of the DFA Legal Affairs Office, Assistant Secretary Domingo Nolasco.
Roque, an international law expert, and an ICC-accredited lawyer, confirmed to ABS-CBN News that he attended the meeting as “private counsel” to the 64-year-old Marcos.
Roque had pushed for the Philippines to join the ICC, which finally happened in 2011.
But in defending former President Duterte’s drug war as then presidential spokesperson, he said the ICC no longer had jurisdiction over the country after it withdrew from the Rome Statute in 2019 and the international body should not interfere with domestic affairs because Philippines courts are working.
The Solicitor General also confirmed the President called for the meeting and the ICC probe was the “only official matter discussed.”
An ICC Pre-Trial Chamber in September last year authorized the ICC Office of the Prosecutor to launch its probe on the thousands of killings in connection with Duterte’s drug war.
The probe also covered the killings in Davao from 2011 to 2016, attributed to a death squad, which allegedly provided the template for the drug war.
The Philippine government has until Sept. 8 to file its comment.
While Guevarra declined to provide additional details about the meeting and the next steps the government would take, he clarified the Philippine government’s involvement in the ICC probe amid the question of why the Marcos government is defending the actions of its predecessor.
“The state, as distinguished from the government or its officials, whether past or present, has a fundamental interest in the ICC case,” he said.
Part of the inquiry in the ICC probe is whether the killings were state-sanctioned or part of a state policy.